The Prime of The Prime


There is really no point in trying to excerpt anything from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; as truly wonderful as the film was, the book, as is often the case, excels it in every way. There is a tautness to the prose of the book, a tension that does not permit mere excerpting. As I was sharing a passage with my wife, I found what I wanted to share going on and on and on to the point where it would probably make for an excellent read-aloud for the two of us.

What is wonderful is both the sharp satire and the incisive view of the characters--the penetrating depth of observation that allows the writer to make a conclusion and carry the reader along without ever stating the conclusion. What is even more wonderful is that it is about the small-scale battles on the moral front that are fought every day--it is about the small choices and the little things that make a difference in a person and in destiny.

What is remarkable are the simple castoffs:

from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Muriel Spark

Rose Stanley believed her, but this was because she was indifferent. She was the least of all the Brodies set to be excited by Miss Brodie's love affairs, or by anyone else's sex. And it was always to be the same. Later, when she was famous for sex, her magnificently appealing qualities lay in the fact that she had no curiosity about sex at all. She never reflected upon it. As Miss Brodie was to say, she had instinct.

And yet these quick castoffs build into a picture of a character and of Miss Brodie herself.

The novel is narrated in and out of time and while the view seems to be omniscient, we gradually devolve upon one viewpoint character whose transformation from the Brodie days is quite significant in the impact of the story.

I'll write a bit more when I've finished the book, but I can see clearly why this book was a substantial advance in the reputation of Muriel Spark as a novelist. I had forgotten how well-formed it really is, how compelling, and how hilarious and serious.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 10, 2006 11:20 AM.

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